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Are Australian Shepherds Good With Cats? (Simplified)

Do Australian shepherds get on well with cats?

As Aussies gain popularity, this question becomes forever more popular. To give you the best answer, we’ve asked real owners that own both a cat and an Aussie. I’ll also cover how this unlikely relationship can actually work out, sometimes.

The simple answer is that is an australian shepherd is raised with a cat from being a puppy then this relationship can actually work out easily. However, aussies coming across a cat while out on a walk will react how owners would expect them to, not so friendly!

australian shepherds with cat

Do Australian Shepherds Get On With Cats?

The old-age battle between dogs and cats will exist forever. The common perception is that most breeds will never be able to get on with cats, and a lot of people put Australian shepherds in that category too.

But it’s not as simple as that. And it is actually possible for Australian shepherds to get on with cats. First, let’s explain why Aussies and cats do not usually get along.

Why Australian shepherds find it hard to get on with cats:

Prey drive:
Australian shepherds have a strong prey drive built-in, even though they are not a hunting breed. This is down to the fact that for thousands of years dogs have hunted in order to survive. The need to chase, grab, and kill smaller animals is a behavior ingrained into all dogs. And it’s something that we can never fully train against. A dog will always have their prey drive.

Although your Aussie is primarily a herder and wonderful family dog, the sight of a cat (especially one unknown to them) will automatically trigger the predatory sequence to chase and capture.

The fact that cats are physically smaller, instinctually scared of dogs themselves, quick-moving, and erratic is exactly why it’s almost impossible for dogs to resist the urge to chase.

That is pretty much why Aussies find it hard to get along with cats, summed up for one reason.

How An Aussie Can Get On With a Cat

So although this relationship doesn’t work on paper, let’s explain how you can have an Australian shepherd and a cat living harmoniously under the same roof.

Scenario 1: You already have a cat

If you already have a cat and are considering getting an Aussie puppy, then this relationship has the easiest route to success. This is because the cat already has its place in the home established, and the puppy will quickly understand that the cat is a part of the family. The pup will also have time to interact and bond with the cat before growing large enough to be a physical threat.

Many owners explain that this is the easiest way for the relationship to work. In these circumstances, your Aussie will likely view the cat as their sibling, rather than their lunch.

Scenario 2: You already have an Australian shepherd

If you already have an Aussie and are trying to bring a cat into the family, this is going to be A LOT more challenging and risky. Although it’s still possible, you’ll need to keep the two separated, introduce them slowly over time, always supervise each of them, and be in full control of the situation. At first, your Aussie will see the cat as a threat and a target.

It will be necessary to teach and show your Aussie that the cat is a respected family member. You’ll need to practice things like feeding the cat first and allowing the cat to be higher up (all of these things signal social hierarchy, which is incredibly important to establish respect). Your Aussie must view that cat as equal or ideally superior to them in order to remove the chance of an attack.

The reality:
In many cases, if you already have an Australian shepherd (especially an adult) it’s not recommended to try bringing a cat into your home. Although I’ve just explained that it is possible, the reality is that it will be unfair on the cat and cause her extreme stress for a very long time. The relationship could take months or years to get to the point you can trust them alone together. And even then there’s no guarantee.

Scenario 3: You are getting a puppy and cat at the same time

This won’t account for many of you reading, but if you are considering getting a puppy and a cat at the same time. This will be another ideal situation to be in.

This way your Aussie won’t already have an established place in the home, so it will be much easier for your Aussie to accept the cat as equal (or superior to them).

And once again, a puppy doesn’t pose the same physical threat like a fully grown adult does. Although your Aussie will grow fast, so it’s crucial you take full advantage to build a good relationship right from day one.

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The Key To Making It Work

The common theme behind making this relationship work is having your Australian shepherd see the cat as equal or ideally superior to them.

Social hierarchy is incredibly important to both cats and dogs. Now, because your Aussie has the ability to kill your cat (but not the other way around) we have to rely on the Aussie, to respect the cat enough not to attack it.

Don’t worry, becoming “best buddies” happens later on. The start of a trusting relationship is all to do with respect and hierarchy within the household.

Tips To Make It Work

Let’s run through some tips to help establish the cat’s status in the home, limiting the chances of your Aussie attacking.

Feed the cat first:
In the animal world, those higher up in rankings always eat first. You can instantly show to your Aussie that the cat is important, by giving them their food first.

Allow the cat to be physically higher:
Cats like to be high up, so let them. Whether this means just on your sofa, or up on top of a cupboard. Being physically higher up than your Aussie is another strong indicator that they are important.

Interact with your cat:
You can show your Aussie that the cat is a valued member of the pack by giving her ample affection. This isn’t being “mean” to your Aussie, it’s to demonstrate that you, the most authoritative member of the pack, approves of the cat.

Positive reinforcement:
It’s crucial to engage in plenty of positive reinforcement training when the two are together. Offer both your cat and Aussie treats when they are around each other. You want them to understand that “good things” happen when they are with each other. This is classic positive reinforcement, and it works a charm.

It takes longer than you think:
This is a safety tip. It takes much longer than you think before you can trust the two together alone. Even after a long time of building a relationship, it might only take a quick sudden dart across the room, for your Aussie to lose control. Remember, prey drive is ingrained, and that means situations can escalate very quickly. This means keeping them separated while you are not there is preferred (for quite a while!).

Last Thoughts

An Australian shepherd will only be good with a cat that they are raised with. In practically all other circumstances, an Australian shepherd would likely try to chase and capture a cat due to their prey drive.

I hope this was helpful!

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